Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Mom

When I was a kid, we didn't have DVR. When you watched television, there was no pausing the show and resuming at your convenience. If you had something you needed to do, you had to do it during the commercial break, or miss your show. So Mom and I would play a game in the evenings during television time. When a commercial break came, we'd jump up from our chairs, race to our bedrooms, put on our pajamas, and see who could get back to their spot first. In those days my mom was young, healthy, and pretty fast. I had to bust my ass if I had any chance at beating her. Sometimes we'd stub our toe while running back, sometimes our buttons would be crooked, sometimes we ran into each other like figure 8 cars, crossing paths as we re-entered the room. The pajama race was always good for some big laughs, at least for my mom and me. My dad didn't seem to think it was too funny. But for me, this is a very fun and happy memory. Just me and my mom acting silly.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

America, Children and Animals, and the USPS

I first met Mr. Striker about eight or nine years ago. I was sitting in my office at work when I got a frantic call to come out and diffuse an angry customer. I had no idea what I was in for. I walked out to find three members of my staff looking frazzled, and maybe even a little frightened. I didn't know what to expect next. They were all standing in front of a little old man, frail and thin, with an uncomfortably curved spine. His hair was thin and white, and a little messy. He had a look of frustration on his face that instantly made my stomach hurt.

I smiled half-heartedly and asked if I could help. The man started telling me how incompetent everyone in the office was, and how no one would listen to what he was trying to say. He was so upset, I took him into my office so he wouldn't catch the attention of the other customers.

Mr. Striker had been a member of our organization for more than 50 years. He had some problems with his account, and wanted to pay for two other accounts. I didn't really know what to say, so I just shut up and let him talk. And talk he did. For about an hour. Mr. Striker told me how he had lost faith in America. How workers today didn't care about customers. He told me how one day in the near future, the United States would become a province of China. He told me how he'd devoted his entire life to charity and humanitarian work; helping children and animals. He told me how difficult it was to communicate with any type of business because he only had a rotary dial phone. He told me how he didn't trust the U.S. Mail because he had seen a mail carrier throw mail into a creek. He'd also seen a mail carrier burn mail. He told me how he didn't trust doctors. How he had a medical background and how he knew doctors didn't know what they were talking about. He talked about politics. He talked about religion. He talked about minorities and illegal immigrants. He told me how his house was constantly vandalized. I just listened. I didn't know what else to do! During the time he spoke, I worked a little magic and took care of all three of the accounts he was paying for. By the time he was done talking, everything was straightened out.

Little did I know, this would be the first of many, MANY times I would hear the same exact speech about the state of America, Children and Animals, and the mail service. In fact, in the years to come I would hear it all over and over and over again. You see, something happened during that hour, and Mr. Striker took the first step at becoming a very dear person in my life.

He was so thrilled that I was able to help him. He was so thrilled that I listened to him. From that moment on, whenever Mr. Striker had any dealings at all with our company, he insisted on speaking to me, and only me. For the next few years, whenever he would come into the office, even though he frightened them, my staff would smile really big, and in their best, most polite voice would say "Hello, Mr. Striker! How are you today?" But Mr. Striker would just growl at them and ask where he might find me.

Mr. Striker began to call me his "Earth Angel". A term I hold very dear, since the song by the same name was one of my mother's all time favorites. During his speech about America, Children and Animals, and the USPS he would tell me how people like me were this country's only saving grace. After about a year of this, Mr. Striker started to ask about my personal life. Then he would offer "Is there anything I can do to help YOU, Ms. Bailey?" He would ask about my kids. He'd ask how I was doing; how I was feeling. About two years into our "relationship" he told me he loved me. He said "Now don't take this the wrong way, Ms. Bailey. I don't love you in a romantic way, I love you in an agape way. Do you know what that means, Ms. Bailey?" I told him I did. From that moment on, in addition to the speech about America, Children and Animals, and the USPS, he always ended our conversations with "I love you, Ms. Bailey. Goodbye".

Up until a few years ago, our organization held a luncheon once a year for members who had been with us 50 years and longer. For two or three years, I would save the spot next to me for Mr. Striker. When he'd walk in, I made a big deal about it. Even though I was keeping him steady, I'd hold his arm and let him escort me to our table, and he was my date for the afternoon. He'd tell everyone at the table about his Earth Angel. For some reason, at that event, he never brought up the state of America, Children and Animals, or the USPS. It was just a nice lunch and he was a perfect gentleman.

The company stopped having the luncheon right about the same time Mr. Striker's health took a turn and he stopped driving. Our talks for the past three or four years have strictly been by phone. As his health declined, I began to see a much more fragile man. A very sad man. And it made me wonder how he got that way.

I suspect Mr. Striker is a hoarder. One day he phoned me after a long absence, and was quite upset. He had been in a nursing home for a few months, and while he was there, his brother and his nieces and nephews had come into his home and cleaned it out. He told me they threw away all his keys, all his papers, all his files, all his records. Something told me he had every piece of mail he'd received for the past 50 years. He was absolutely devastated to return home and find all his things were gone. Since he spoke so often about vandalism at his home, I figured he probably lived in a questionable neighborhood. He had told me several times that the home he lived in had belonged to his family for generations. This made me curious, and I searched his address on the Property Value Administration site. My jaw hit the desk when I discovered the home and land was valued at about $1.5 million. It sits on several acres in one of the most affluent (yet older) neighborhoods in our town. The rest of the neighborhood was built around this home, which had been standing for quite some time when the rest came along. I guess this explains his ability to spend his life doing charity work.

Mr. Striker drove two different cars; one from the 1960's, one from the 1970's. His clothes were modest. I knew he never married, and had no children. He has one brother, whom he can't stand. The brother is the polar opposite of Mr. Striker. A business man, a conformist with a cell phone and a new car. The brother has some children. Nieces and nephews of Mr. Sriker. He doesn't like them either. I'm sure they are all anxious for the crotchety, crazy old uncle to "go away" so they can sell the family house.

Something happened that caused Mr. Striker to be frozen in time. He had to have had friends at some point. I wondered what had happened to them. I believe he drove them all away; closed himself off from them. He wanted the world to be the way it was in the 1940's. I think he just threw in the towel and stopped moving forward all together, somewhere around 1974. I always felt Mr. Striker had loved someone once, very much; and lost her. He's never spoken of it, but that's what my heart always told me. I often felt that event is what froze him in his tracks--what made him stop living his life and retreat into what became a bitter shell.

I last spoke with Mr. Striker about a month ago. He called to arrange payment of his membership dues. He was home then, but had been back in the hospital and nursing home again, and sounded extraordinarily weak and frail. He didn't even bother to tell me about the declining state of our country. As always, he refused to put his statement and payment into the return envelope, and send it to our processing center in Ohio (this prompted the USPS story again). He had to address a handwritten envelope to my attention and send the check directly to me, his Earth Angel. He knows I'll take care of it, and mail him back a receipt, also in a handwritten envelope, along with a nice thank you note. As he ended the conversation, he asked once again if there was anything he could do to help me and my family, then said "I love you, Ms. Bailey. Goodbye". I told him I loved him too. I'm not sure how many more opportunities I'll have to say that to him, and I really wanted him to know. After all, every human being needs someone; anyone to love them. I'm honored that for Mr. Striker, I have been able to be that person.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No Peace

Someone said something to me a few days ago, and I can't get it out of my mind. They said "No peace in my mind, and I feel I am to blame". Powerful words.

I guess we sometimes prevent ourselves from having peace. Maybe we feel we've made a bad decision. Maybe we feel we need to MAKE a decision. Maybe we feel stuck. It's not good to feel stuck--like you don't have options. You've backed yourself into a corner, and now there's no way out. No easy way, anyway. And let's face it, most of us don't want to take the hard way out, do we?

Life is complicated.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spring Cleaning

Lately I've had the strangest overwhelming desire to get organized. It started the night I was in the kitchen, cleaning out the freezer, and the breeze came over me. Now, everywhere I look, I want to empty everything out, clean, throw out the excess,and reorganize. Funny thing is, I've only done it a few places around the house and at work. Most of the time, like tonight, I just stare at it and think how I'd like to organize it, but it seems too overwhelming, so I don't.

When a woman is near the end of a pregnancy, this is called "nesting". An incredible urge to make sure every detail is in order before the baby comes. The nursery must be ready, the bag packed, the house clean. I'm not sure what's causing this in me now. I'm certainly not expecting a new baby, but maybe I am anticipating a different type of birth. A rebirth, maybe.

It's time for me to get my life in order.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is It Learned, Or Are We Born With It?

Conversation between my son, 14 and my daughter, 12, while watching my daughter's favorite singer on American Idol.

Daughter: Who are those girls?
Son: What girls?
Daughter: Those girls from the audience, all around Colton.
Son: (Sighs) I feel sorry for your boyfriend.
Daughter: I don't have a boyfriend.
Son: Well when you do; I feel sorry for him.
Daughter: Why?
Son: Because you're so insecure.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Next Door Neighbors Part 2

We moved from the old house and Mrs. Crevistan the summer after 3rd grade. I would live in the next house until I got married for the first time. My Dad still lives there. We had a few next door neighbors there, but the one who lived there when we moved in was the most fun.

Milton was about 55 years old. He lived in the house with his elderly mother. Milton was as flamboyant as a middle class Liberace might have been. He pranced around in his silk shirts, making sure to leave the top buttons undone to reveal his gold chains, and white, hairy chest. He loved diamonds, and had lots of them dripping from his fingers in the form of very large, gaudy rings. He always drove big, flashy cars. Milton had wonderful dishes. He had beautiful stemware and big gold goblets. He had chandeliers, candelabras, and outlandish furniture. Milton had the most wonderful record collection; Don Ho and Liberace. They would let me play the records whenever I wanted. They knew I'd be very careful with them. I respected them and loved listening to this music that seemed so exciting and foreign to me.

Shortly after we moved in, Milton and his mother had a pool installed. Milton would parade around with the gold chains and Speedo bikini shorts. It was a sight. He had a very large, round belly, and skinny sticks for legs.

Milton had a girlfriend. A very large, very loud red head. It all seemed for show really, at least to me. But Milton always put on the "tough guy" act. He'd talk about getting into fights with practical jokers at work, and bloodying their noses. So it just became one of those situations where you just didn't think much about it, and let it go.

Milton's mother was the epitome of a classy, elderly lady. I loved her very much. She would sit out on the back porch and keep an eye on me so I could come to swim in the summer. She told my mother I looked like a little goddess out there swimming around the pool. When she died, Milton gave my mother a fabulous pearl necklace and earrings that belonged to her. He told my mother they were to be mine one day. He also gave her a large, beautiful mirror; again, with the understanding that when I had a house of my own, it was to be mine. That mirror is hanging in my dining room, and the pearls are in my jewelry box. I wore them in my wedding. They are among my most prized possessions.

Another item I acquired from Milton, was a set of multi colored tin drinking cups. I saw them in the garage one day and once he knew I had my eye on them, they became mine. I drank out of them all the time. Years later, when I was pregnant with my son, I actually picked one of them up and hurled it at my husband's head. Thanks to his cat-like reflexes, he ducked just in time. He accused me of trying to kill him. I was pregnant, it was Derby week, he was hours late getting home, and he'd been to a strip club. Hell yeah, I was trying to kill him! I'm not sure where those cups are now.

Milton didn't live too long after his mother died. His spending became over the top, and debt started piling up. He ended up selling the house. He moved into an apartment and things seemed to start falling apart. Milton developed cancer and died a year or so later. I'm not sure how old he was at the time, but probably in his mid 60's.

There have been other neighbors in that house. Most of which I've probably mentioned in this blog. The next was the lady who started my mother drinking, ultimately landing her in rehab for a month. The next was a young guy who had wild pool parties that went way in to the wee hours. The day after those, my dad would go out at 7:00 a.m. and start up the lawn mower and roll it next to their bedroom window, then go in the house. The current neighbors are the Vietnamese family.

What a wonderful, over-the-top, colorful man Milton was. I loved him. I loved his mother. I smile now as I think of them. I will never forget them.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Next Door Neighbors

I don't really know the people who moved in next door to me late last fall. I saw the lady out one day and introduced myself, but haven't seen much of them all winter. This made me think of other next door neighbors I've had in my lifetime. Tonight I will talk about the first one.

Mrs. Crevastin was my first next door neighbor. This was at my early childhood home; the one where I sat upstairs listening to my sister's records, and pretended to be Laurie Partridge. Mrs. Crevastin lived alone, and to me she seemed very old. She had snow white hair, and wore the thickest glasses I'd ever seen. They looked like a kaleidoscope. Mrs. Crevastin always had a pitcher of cold water in her refrigerator, and when I'd go over for a visit, I always asked for a glass of it. While I was in her kitchen, I'd look up the staircase that lead to the second floor of her house. It was narrow and to me it seemed like that part of the house was forbidden. I guess she only needed the first floor, and had pretty much closed that area off. Of course I'd always ask if I could go up there. I was always told "no" and shooed back into the living room, where I promptly got in the floor. I thought she had the softest carpet I'd ever touched. To me it seemed pink. Maybe it was salmon colored. I'd lay on it like a kitty cat and squirm around so the soft, fluffy rug would tickle my arms, legs, and face. Mrs. Crevastin always wore a dress and black shoes that laced up and had a heel. The same type of shoe my grandmother wore. She was a nice lady.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

It Could Be Worse, I Know

Even though I don't believe I ever heard him say the phrase, my Dad has always lived by the "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" philosophy. It makes him angry to hear people say "I have the worst luck", or go around thinking "Poor, pitiful me". One time my Dad got a speeding ticket and said "I'm so glad that happened. It will slow me down. I could have had a bad accident". If life hands him lemons, he makes lemonade. The glass is always half full.

I try to live by this mantra as much as I'm able, but today I just can't help it. I feel like there's a black cloud over my head and it's starting to get to me. I feel like I can't catch a break! Due to a "break in the line" somewhere in the walls of our house, our home telephone has been broken for about a month now. Our options are to pay $300 to rewire the entire house, run one new jack through the wall into the house, but our existing jacks would not work, or just scrap the whole house phone thing. I'm all for scrapping, but then this opens up a whole new can of worms with the alarm system. So while the guy was investigating the problem, he somehow messed up our internet service. Luckily, that was a relatively easy fix. But he also seems to have disconnected the doorbell; so now we have no home phone and no doorbell.

We've had some problems with critters. We've had some mice, which apparently got inside the walls, and may be the culprit for the severed wires. So far we've captured two. A great deal of cleaning and bleaching has ensued as a result. Also, some birds got into the attic. Believe me when I tell you mice or birds inside your walls sounds like a monster. My husband said it sounded like a badger. So yesterday he was on a ladder outside trying to get them out and seal up the area where a vent got blown off and allowed them to enter in the first place.

Friday night, our heat went out. It appears it needs some type of motor. While attempting to keep warm, I plugged in a space heater in the kitchen. That seemed to work just fine until I turned on the toaster oven. It now appears I've fried the entire circuit, and we have no power in the kitchen.

This morning I was bent over sorting laundry, and when I stood up I felt my back "catch". I am now unable to stand up straight. This happens to me from time to time and I have a regimen I practice. 800mg ibuprofen, then a very hot bath with jets. After that I do a series of stretches, which usually works it out. So while I'm in the "hot soaking bath" part of the whole thing, I get a phone call from my daughter. She sprained her ankle at volleyball practice.

I am trying very hard to stay positive and focus on good things. The ankle doesn't appear to be broken. Dad's cancerous tumor has been removed, and the area appears to be clear. Our home was not destroyed by tornadoes. My body is healthy, and everything that is broken can eventually be fixed. And thankfully I have the money right now to do so. But right now I feel a little out of control and can't understand if I somehow got my karma out of whack, or if God is trying to tell or show me something. Maybe it's just timing; stuff get hurt at sports. I'm just kinda ready for some things to turn around.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Every Little Thing....Is Gonna Be Alright

I don't really know what to say tonight. I feel sad. I feel heartbroken. I feel scared.

But I also feel hopeful. I feel positive. I feel confident. I feel strong for my friend. And I will be there for her.

I feel in my heart like everything is going to be just fine.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Quotes I Like

"Never give back the ring. Never. Swallow it first."
-Joan Rivers

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Oh Won't You Stay......Just A Little Bit Longer?

I know it's still officially winter, but it's 70 degrees outside so it feels like the seasons have changed. I took a nice walk around the neighborhood and decided to sit out on the back deck to cool down and catch my breath. It was so nice out and felt so good. Then I looked over and saw a little patch of white wildflowers starting to bloom, and two cute little birds gathering straw for a nest, and thought to myself..."I hate spring".

I know how strange that sounds. Most people look forward to spring from Thanksgiving until March. Now this is nothing new; I'm sure I write about it every year, but today I thought "Why do I hate this beautiful season of the year?" Most people think it's tied in with the Kentucky Derby, and certainly that's part of it, but there's more.

In addition to the Running of the Roses and all the drama that brings to my world, there's also storm and tornado season. The weather is very unstable and unpredictable. When I was a teenager I developed this fear that the world would end in the spring because the sky often looked so ominous. But the spring thing I want to talk about today is Easter.

Now before everyone starts bashing me for not being very Christian-like, I want to say I know the "reason for the season", and all that. But I'm talking about 3 year old Easter, or 5 year old Easter. I was never a prissy girl, and Easter meant getting a dress and tights, and wearing shiny shoes that hurt my feet. It meant pastel colors, and being forced to eat all the hard boiled eggs we'd dyed. Even the white part. Easter meant jelly beans, which I never liked, and I always seemed to forget how much I hated the black licorice ones until I started chewing them. Easter meant getting that plastic grass all stuck on your sticky candy. And for some reason I never wanted to eat the chocolate bunny. I saved him until he was stale, then had to throw him out. But mostly....and this is a big one....mostly I hated the Easter Bunny. You should already know as a child (and maybe still today) I was terrified of clowns, and Santa. I was terrified of anyone or THING inside any type of costume. But the Easter Bunny was the worst of them all!! Was he out there in the yard hiding the eggs I dyed right now? Worse yet, would he STILL be out there when I got up in the morning to search for the eggs? If I'd had a weapon back then, I'd have taken it outside with me just in case.

So I guess there are a lot of reasons I hate to see Old Man Winter leave for another year.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Well, That Changes Everything

Why is it that I seem to be able to talk, and actually say what I mean, actually communicate with all my women friends, but I can't seem to express even one thought to a man? Well, that's not necessarily true. I can communicate just fine with men as long as they are not my dad, or as long as I haven't had sex with them.

I was thinking last week about two guy friends who have been in my life for a very long time. One since 1977 and the other since the late 80's, and I've always been able to talk to them about pretty much anything. But once that line is crossed, a conversation between myself and a man would go something like this:

We are both hungry, and both craving Mexican food.

Me: Are you hungry?
Man: I don't know, I guess.
Me: You wanna go to a restaurant and get some Mexican food, or you want me just to get carryout?
Man: I don't know. Whatever you want.
Me: Well, I'd like us to go together, but I'm getting the feeling that's not what you want.
Man: What makes you think that?
Me: I don't're just acting funny.
Man: OH MY am I acting funny now?
Me: Well don't get so upset about it! I can't talk to you about anything anymore!
Man: Whatever.
Me: Don't walk away from me! What is your problem?
Man: You're the one with the problem.
Me: Fine...I'll just go get the food and bring it home. I don't want to fight with you tonight.

Crazy, ain't it?

Friday, March 2, 2012

You're In My Heart, You're In My Soul

Thinking about my sweet, sweet Miss Pamela tonight. You are in my heart and on my mind. I just know everything is going to be okay.